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Open Data Kit: Mobile Data Collection in Africa

As we’ve mentioned before, Africa has made an asset of its liability. Its relative dearth of infrastructure has inspired a generation of tech thinkers to innovate its mobile technology. Yaw Anokwa is one such innovators. His project, Open Data Kit, “a free and open-source set of tools which helps organizations create mobile data collection solutions with smartphones and cloud infrastructure.”

In an interview with Geekwire, Anokwa explained the kit is already being used to do socio-economic and health surveys. The survey data is tied to GPS locations and assigned images. Additional projects include creating “decision support” for medical professional sand “building multimedia-rich nature mapping tools..”

Anokwa, a PhD candidate in Computer Science at the University of Washington, created a group, Change, that examines ways of improving the lives of under-served and low-income areas and people through tech.

The ODK is an out-of-box tool that allows the user to build a data collection form or survey, collect the data on a mobile device and send it to a server, aggregate the collected data on a server and extract it in useful formats.

The kit has been used to monitor fraud in Afghanistan, map water sources in Ghana, monitor deforestation in Brazil, survey human rights violations in the Central African Republic, to support community health workers in Boston and more.

As a detailed example of the use of the Open Data Kit, he offered USAID’s AMPATH project in Kenya.

“AMPATH in Kenya has been using ODK for their HIV home-based counseling and testing program. Their counselors go house to house with phones running ODK. The software walks them through a standardized counseling and testing protocol and the geo-tagged results are sent to their OpenMRS medical record system using WiFi or GPRS. AMPATH has reached some 65,000 individuals and has been able to rapidly and cost-effectively identify individuals at significant risk from HIV, saving lives.”

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